Castles in the cornfield provided the setting for Deborah J. Lightfoot’s earliest flights of fancy. On her father’s farm in Texas, she grew up reading tales of adventure and reenacting them behind ramparts of sun-drenched grain. She left the farm to earn a degree in journalism and write award-winning books of history and biography. High on her Bucket List was the desire to try her hand at the genre she most admired. The result is Waterspell, a multi-layered fantasy trilogy about a girl and the wizard who suspects her of being so dangerous to his world, he believes he’ll have to kill her … which troubles him, since he’s fallen in love with her. Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock; Waterspell Book 2: The Wysard; and Waterspell Book 3: The Wisewoman.
What inspires you to write?
The Waterspell story has been percolating since I was a teenager, or younger. Everything a writer reads, experiences, learns, or enjoys will influence her writing. Growing up, I read English Lit: “Alice in Wonderland,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Jane Eyre,” “The Once and Future King.” I also devoured Edgar Allan Poe. Among my favorite science fiction/fantasy authors were Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern) and Andre Norton (Witch World). When I wasn’t reading, I was outdoors communing with nature. Waterspell reflects all these influences and more. It’s a sword-and-sorcery tale with an environmental science-fictional twist. And between my two central characters—homeless Carin and dangerous Lord Verek—a romance blossoms. At first, their relationship may seem unlikely. But by the end of the trilogy, neither can imagine life without the other.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m a pantser, not a plotter. I knew where Waterspell began, and I had a vague idea of where it would end. But in between, the characters drove the plot. I didn’t know what would happen until it happened. Which is a revision-heavy, trial-and-error way to write a novel. I’m sure plotters write more efficiently, with their outlines and their fully-thought-out synopses. But I agree with Stephen King (On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft): “Stories,” he wrote, “are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to … get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.” That’s what Waterspell feels like to me: an account of real events. I couldn’t plot it beforehand because I was only following along, notepad in hand, to record the action.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I listen. More than once, my characters triggered the “writer’s high” — that exhilarating feeling of being in the zone, hearing voices in my head as the characters talk to each other–or shout at each other, as is often the case with mine–and typing as fast as I can to get the scene down on paper in “real time” while the action is happening.
What advice would you give other writers?
Join a critique group. As my leading man, Lord Verek, says when he’s teaching Carin to shoot: “Those who school alone, school their mistakes. Errors become so deeply ingrained that no amount of correction can remedy them.” Working with critique partners helps you break bad habits. My worst habit is wordiness. My critique partners are fantastic at identifying verbosity. They’ve helped me develop a tighter writing style.
Also, don’t neglect basic copyediting and proofreading. The best story in the world will be a dud if the presentation is so rough and sloppy, nobody can read it. Respect your readers—edit.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Two experiences converged to send me down the indie path. First, I got great responses from New York editors who complimented my writing and the originality of the story. But each editor ultimately rejected Waterspell because Book 1 is not a standalone novel — it ends on a cliffhanger. No traditional publisher would commit to the complete trilogy. They wanted to publish only Book 1 and look at sales before deciding whether to release the rest of the series. Of course, that was a deal-breaker.
About that same time, I read a fascinating article at www.pbs.org/mediashift/ — “2010: The Year Self-Publishing Lost Its Stigma.” To quote: “In today’s tight traditional publishing market, agents, editors, and publishers are now encouraging authors to test market their book by self-publishing. … Self-publishing has finally lost its stigma. [N]ew attitudes are taking hold, especially among younger up-and-coming literary agents.” “‘Many of our indie e-book authors are outselling, outmarketing and outpublishing the traditional publishers,’ says Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords.”
That was enough for me. In my journalism career I’ve handled all aspects of publishing, from writing and editing through book layout and printing. I felt confident going indie. It was clearly the best choice for me and my trilogy.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think legacy publishers will likely become “boutique” houses, publishing expensive-to-produce coffee-table art books and a handful of mega-selling brand-name authors. The great majority of books, however, will be published non-traditionally. Small presses and individual authors will rule the book world. Book bloggers and review sites will fill the “gatekeeper” role formerly held by editors at the big houses. Without a doubt, a slush pile of truly terrible, amateurish writing is being offered to the reading public by folks who have much to learn about the craft of writing. Book bloggers and reviewers are helping readers separate the gems from the rubbish.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
Fantasy, Young Adult, New Adult, Literary
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print